Whining

25 Oct

This is going to sound awfully whiny, and there might be some SID/PID teachers who have more of a reason to complain than I do. But I don’t think any are in my county.

I feel swamped. I think I have always felt swamped in some fashion or form but this year it hit particularly hard with 3 new students and 2 new paras. Nine SID/PID students is simply too many for this level of disability. I’m trying to keep track of 9 diets, 9 medical conditions, 9 bathroom schedules (gotta keep track of when everyone has a BM!) 9 parents, 9 IEPS, 9 academic programs across all subjects and all 4 grade levels. While all my paras have talents in their own way, they are not charged with keeping track of everyone all at the same time. Sure, that’s why I get paid the big bucks, but where is the limit?

I am totally crashing up against it. I forget stuff like jackets, snacks, medications, and a variety of other little niggling things. I used to like talking to parents and related service providers, but I find I have less time and patience for the various nitpicking requests. “Can you brush his teeth?” “Can you make sure her shirt is tucked in?” “Can we make sure he uses his communication device at lunch?” “Can you make sure he stays on the GFCF diet in the school cafeteria?” “Can you make sure he uses his picture schedule?”

If I had a sane class size, these would be just part of the job and everyone would get the special treatment we’re supposed to give him or her. I felt full at 7 students but we were able to do some cool things. This year, it feels more like just survival, and not sustainable. I do have to give credit in that several other teachers and paras have chipped in and helped when they could. My parents have generally been supportive. My paras are generally competent. The thing is, is that I feel like we are past the point where adding more paras will do us any good. Adding another adult helper is simply one more person that I have to keep track of and manage all day long.

Some may hate me saying this, but we are a school/nursing home hybrid. We do what they do in a nursing home plus I have to do what 4-5 other teachers do, albeit on a different and much abbreviated level. The shift to the regular academic curriculum on top of the daily living skills curriculum adds a level of incredulity to a mission that was already seen as bordering on futility.

Most of the real stakeholders know all of this already. I’ve voiced a lot of concerns to those in positions to help and ease our plight, but they are not listening or at least they are not responding. Either they are unwilling or unable to do anything. And since some students were allowed to jump across the zone into my class where another parent was not allowed to go to a different zone to in order to escape my overcrowding. So indicators are pretty much pointing to some sort of willful hostility or ignorance at the county system level.

The core problem is that each of my students have so many pressing needs, some which need to be met in order to maintain their health and their lives! I feel personally responsible for each and every one of them, and don’t have it in me to say “Too bad” and not try my best. I’ve known many teachers who were willing to simply let things slide or simply do the bare minimum or less. This particular position sometimes attracts those characters. But I can’t do that, as I am blessed and cursed with a moral conscience that does not allow it. So every time I fail to meet a given need, or forget something or don’t get to something, it is seen as a demoralizing failure on my part. I don’t think my standards are too high, but with this many kids, the toll has been substantial. In the grand scheme of things, forgetting to send a jacket home or keep up with who had a BM when is comparatively minor, but this sort of thing has been happening more and more this year. I feel like I’m losing my mind. But I’m trying to noodle it out and basically chalk it up to the fact that I am trying to do the best that I can under the present circumstances. I don’t think I’m a perfectionist, but I do have high standards for myself. I expect mistakes and expect to learn from them. Is feeling down about neglecting some of my students perfectionism? I think that is what it is; I feel like all of my students suffer from neglect at least at some point during the day. I can not sit all of them around a table and have them physically within arms reach. When they are being positioned and changed, those not needing positioning are hanging loose. When teaching those who are less disabled, I can barely include those who are more involved because they all need intense instruction!

Horace’s Compromise (or at least the dilemma described therein) has officially arrived in my classroom.

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9 Responses to “Whining”

  1. Lisa October 26, 2009 at 9:50 am #

    You definitely have too many students! I teach the same sort of class with 5 kids and 2 paras. And while my parents are all reasonable, I feel the need to make sure many things are done that maybe others wouldn’t worry about. And I am seriously a micro manager, which doesn’t help. No solutions for you, just appreciation,

  2. Lisa2 October 26, 2009 at 9:47 pm #

    It is so helpful to hear of others in similar situations. I go home exhausted trying to keep up with diapers and potty training. I feel like education is a minor part of our day. Providing safety/healthy kids seems to take most of the time.

  3. Daniel Dage October 27, 2009 at 12:23 am #

    I appreciate the appreciation, Lisa! We do tend to be isolated within our little buidings, with no one else who does what we do, it’s helpful just knowing others that are out there!

    Yes, Lisa2, somewhere I had written a post devoted to diaper changing, but never posted it as it got just too goofy and graphic! But I’m sure many of us can relate to the “Land of a Thousand Diapers!”

  4. Jane October 27, 2009 at 8:34 am #

    Dan, it sounds as if your job was do-able before the 4 academic subjects were added on top of the life skills curriculum in your county. I’m guessing this has happened in other counties. What would happen if all of the teachers of students with IQ’s in the single digits, as you so honestly expressed it, got together to advocate for a more realistic curriculum for your type of student? Is the national-level special ed professional orgaization willing to take this on? if not, why not?

  5. Daniel Dage October 27, 2009 at 7:05 pm #

    Well, the academic content is only one issue among many that seems to have converged. I actually like teaching academics, believe it or not. But the sheer number, the level of support needed and the logistical factors of blending all of this has made things especially challenging.

    National special ed. organizations are not unified, here. Some that cater more toward this population actually want more academics, along with more inclusion. That means letting academic teachers handle the academics which would suit me fine, except the reg. teachers would DIE if they had to serve any of my kids! NCLB is an all-or-none deal, and was written with no regard for these students. While the Council for Exceptional Children might go for some moderation, TASH (which is more for students with severe disabilities, supposedly) is against a separate curriculum of any sort. Thanks for reading and commenting, Jane!

    So much for burying this post beneath the one of grading!

  6. Jane October 29, 2009 at 9:13 am #

    I’ve had some exposure to TASH. To my mind, they confuse two things — pushing for respect for their children, and inclusion in community life in general (I’m all for it and practice it in many aspects of my life) versus demanding that their children be treated exactly the same as non-disabled children to the point where their special needs are not addressed, because they can’t be met in a typical classroom. So, I discount TASH’s position on classroom instruction because it values inclusion over effective instruction, always and everywhere.

  7. Jamie Caster November 4, 2009 at 10:36 pm #

    Dan, thanks for your post. I teach in a middle school in Rhode Island. My class & situation sounds almost exactly like yours. I currently have 10 students in 4 grade levels. When I began working with the severe/profound population 6 years ago, I thought I had really found my niche. I loved the students and the challenge, still do. I also felt inspired by my college professor’s message of inclusion as best practice. I began 6 years ago by by pushing for a paradigm change in my building as far as inclusion of our severe/profound students. Through my salesmanship and the open minds of many general ed. teachers a shift did occur. This was done largely without the support or knowledge of admin. But making it work depended greatly on my ability to bounce around the building like a ping-pong ball, forgoing planning time and often lunch breaks, supporting, adapting, and modifying all general ed. settings (not just academic ones); while creating and delivering 6-10 different individual Language Arts and Math curriculums. Even the best paras cannot adequately substitute for a trained special educator, and poor paras… Despite my best efforts, I have watched what I built deteriorate over the past few years, as more grade levels are added to my roster, scheduling priorities have shifted to other areas, challenging students that are not being successful with resource help (read: autism) are being placed in my room although they don’t fit the model, larger caseloads, alternate assessment, an on and on. This year is the worst yet. I am in my room all day. I have no time to meet with general ed. teachers, modify and adapt their curriculum, or assist in their classes. I am depending on paras to do what can only adequately be done by a special educator. I struggle, and have struggled, with the questions of whether I should just learn to accept the way things are (since pushing back against them only seems to either cause me problems with admin., or to run into brick walls of apathy) and be happy with doing the best I can when I know I could and should be able to do so much more for my students; or whether to brush off the 10 years of dust that has collected on my general ed. certificate and forget about this niche that I thought I had found in order to save my own health and sanity.
    I often wonder if general ed. teachers stand in front of their classes and think “I’d really like to teach my students to the best of my ability and utilize the “best practices” I spent so much time learning in graduate school, but…”

  8. Daniel Dage November 9, 2009 at 9:53 pm #

    Jamie, the regular ed teachers DO feel exactly like that. No matte how competent the teacher, they are easily and swiftly rendered mediocre by a raft of extra duties, administrivia not to mention the diverse challenges of the learners in the classroom. And don’t forget the testing! As to what to do, only you can answer that one. Keep a tally and at some pint, you will see the sign either light up or not. Ten years in this business is a really long time. It might be time for a change.

  9. diddy O November 10, 2009 at 10:40 am #

    great article,thanks

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